September 8, 2006
I haven’t traveled by airplane in fifteen years, so I was expecting a lot of things to have changed. What surprised me is how little, other than having take my shoes off, had changed. Oh yeah, there were the strip and invasive cavity searches, but I volunteered for those. What really surprised me was how little about the local airport had changed. Expecting a long delay at security I showed up a couple of hours early, and spent most of that time wandering up and down the concourses. The A concourse, the one for international flights, was the shortest. Most of it was taken up with one of those moving sidewalks. It had only one small gift shop selling magazines, t-shirts, and bags of peanuts. I don’t know about you but when I get off a plane, especially when it’s an international flight, the last thing I want to see is a bag of peanuts. It also had a barbecue place. The B concourse was the nice one: it was clean, there were approximately fourteen gift shops that carried everything from expensive perfume to gourmet flavored bags of peanuts. In one of the shops a toy 747 buzzed around the ceiling in a perpetual holding pattern. The B concourse even had its own bookstore, conveniently located across from one of the barbecue places. All this seemed to say that B concourse people were a higher class of people. Everything about it said, "The concourse may be B, but these are A-list people." The D concourse was closed for renovation, except for the barbecue place which was open. The D concourse renovation has been going on for at least fifteen years, although they’ve now got different signs announcing it. It used to be that when a place was renovating they put up signs that said, "We apologize for the inconvenience". Now they put up signs that say, "Please pardon our mess". Before it was an inconvenience and they apologized for it. Now it’s a mess and they expect you to pardon it, subtly suggesting that you might be responsible for causing it. At the very least you’re a bad person if you don’t pardon their mess. But I digress. The C concourse was the rebel. It was the bad kid. It was the concourse that hadn’t been swept in at least six months. Half the gates in the C concourse didn’t have seats, although that didn’t bother the people who were sleeping on the floor. The C concourse was the only one with a bar that was already serving beer at eight in the morning. I’m not being judgmental. I’m just not sure why the A concourse didn’t have its own bar. If you’ve just stepped off a fourteen-hour flight from Kinshasa you could probably use a drink. But I digress. The bar was located next to the barbecue place. The C concourse was the only one with a glass-walled lounge where smokers could sit like fish in a dirty aquarium and enjoy the hazy comfort of each other’s secondhand smoke. Spending fifteen minutes in any airport smoker’s lounge, by the way, is the equivalent of an entire pack of cigarettes. The difference between B and C was enough to give any traveler a complex. The B concourse had stations where you could plug in your laptop. The C concourse had gift shops with giant bags of peanuts. The B concourse had "Relax Fast" chairs where, for fifteen bucks, you could get a five-minute electric massage. The C-concourse had two-for-twenty-bucks t-shirt specials. The B concourse had an ice cream parlor. The C concourse had eight-dollar nachos and vending machines. And of course my flight was leaving from Gate C-19. I’m happy to say the trip improved significantly after I got off the C-list.